There’s a thing or two we can learn from the Amish. For instance, growing beards to applaudable lengths or matching outfits with your friends. One Amish tradition that I think we non-Amish or “worldly” people could benefit from is the concept of Rumspringa. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, Rumspringa is the Amish rite of passage where teens aged 16 to 18 are permitted to live without traditional Amish restrictions. The word literally translates to “running around” in Pennsylvania Dutch. Teens are encouraged to explore what’s beyond the community and engage in worldly activities. During this period, Amish teens travel, wear everyday clothing, use modern technology and even drink and party with worldly people. The purpose behind these two years of freedom is to give the young people a chance to experience what’s beyond their culture and to let them decide, on their own, if they want to continue the Amish lifestyle. Those who return after two years are baptized and decide whether they want to become committed members of the church and community.
I propose the opposite for worldly youth. A reverse Rumspringa. Instead of “running around,” call it “standing still” or “Shtaya Schtill” in Pennsylvania Dutch. Think of it like a domestic foreign exchange program: sending teens to live and learn in Amish communities for a time. In the reverse way that Amish teens are allowed to go a bit wild, you would live under the restrictions of the community and adhere to their tenants of simplicity.
There are so many forgotten yet practical skills you would develop. First, you’d learn to cook – and cook quite well. If you’ve ever purchased anything from an Amish market, you know they swing big. Recipes have been passed down and perfected for generations. Living in that community, you’d be privy to that information. Imagine the sheer joy at every potluck when you strut in with your homemade Shoofly Pie. You’re the belle of the ball, number one in everyone’s hearts and stomachs.
Sewing, gardening and carpentry are necessary skills within the community that could prove to be fruitful hobbies upon leaving. For instance, your community theatre may be doing a production of “Little House on the Prairie” and is lacking costumes. Good thing you’ve spent the last three months learning to sew bonnets and pairs of suspenders.
As many of us are aware, social media has a chokehold on a multitude of young people. Living in a community where you’re shunned if you use social media would be a great incentive to put your phone down and experience a complete digital detox.
On top of potential mental health benefits, there would almost certainly be benefits to your physical health. First, having no phones, you’d probably have a better sleep schedule, waking up early in the morning to get started on the chores for the day. You’d work all day long doing tiring physical labor, either farming, working construction or hand-washing clothes for a family of ten. Imagine how jacked your arms would get from churning butter. To refuel, you’d be eating a pretty good diet as well: fresh fruits and vegetables picked straight from the garden along with whatever animal was last butchered, all washed down with milk from a cow that you probably know the name of.
Above all, I think that with the lack of modern technology and materialistic society, teens would learn what is truly important and have some positive values instilled in them such as a strong work ethic, commitment to faith and community and the virtue of simplicity.